The United States Military Academy (also known as USMA, West Point, "The Point" or, for collegiate athletic purposes, Army) is a United States Army post and service academy. West Point was the first United States military post built after the Declaration of Independence. In its inception, it was under the command of Benedict Arnold. Established by Thomas Jefferson in 1802, it is the oldest military academy in the United States. Students are referred to as cadets. Collectively, graduates are known as "The Long Gray Line" because of the color of cadet uniforms and the unbroken line of West Point graduates. West Point trains more United States Army officers than any other single institution and a high proportion of distinguished American generals have been West Point graduates. Currently, over 900 graduates are commissioned as U.S. Army second lieutenants every year, representing 25% of new second lieutenants commissioned.
The Academy is located at West Point, New York, on a scenic overlook of the Hudson River, about 50 miles (80 km) north of New York City. (). Occupying over 16,000 acres (65 km²), it is one of the largest school campuses in the world. By comparison, the United States Naval Academy is 338 acres (1.37 km²) and United States Air Force Academy is 18,000 acres (73 km²). Its unique combination of facilities includes a ski slope and artillery range, in addition to the academic buildings and sports facilities found on a typical university campus. The post itself was first occupied in 1778; it is thus the oldest continuously occupied military post in the United States. The campus and central post area comprise only a small portion of the reservation.
The United States Military Academy West Point accomplishes its mission by developing cadets in four critical areas: intellectual, physical, military, and moral-ethical. The four-year process is called the "West Point Experience." The foundation of the ethical code at West Point is found in the Academy's motto, "Duty, Honor, Country." Cadets also develop ethically by adhering to the Cadet Honor Code, which states "A cadet will not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do." The 4,000 members of the Corps of Cadets represent every state in the U.S. and several foreign countries. About 1,200 New Cadets enter the Academy on Reception Day each year (about July 1st). Upon graduation, cadets are awarded Bachelor of Science degrees and commissions in the United States Army. They serve on active duty for a minimum of five years.
By an Act of Congress passed in 1903, two appointments as Cadets were allowed for each senator, representative, and delegate in Congress, two for the District of Columbia, and five each year at large on an Annual basis. Currently, each member of Congress and the Vice President can have five appointees attending the Military Academy at any time. When any appointee graduates or otherwise leaves the academy, a vacancy is created. The process is not political and applicants do not have to know their congressman to be nominated. Congressmen generally nominate ten people per vacancy. They can nominate people in a competitive manner, or they can have a principal nomination. In a competitive nomination, all ten applicants are reviewed by the academy to see who is the most qualified. If the congressman appoints a principal nominee, then as long as that candidate is physically, medically, and academically found qualified by the academy, he or she will be admitted, even if there are more qualified applicants. The degree of difficulty in obtaining a nomination varies greatly according to the number of applicants in a particular state. The process of obtaining a nomination typically consists of completing an application, completing one or more essays, and obtaining one or more letters of recommendation. These requirements are set by the respective senator or congressman and are in addition to the USMA application.
Additional sources of appointment are open to children of career military personnel (100 per year); 170 appointments per year are for active-duty Army enlisted personnel; 20 appointments per year are provided for Army Reserve Officer Training Corps Cadets; and 65 appointments are available to children of military members who were killed in action, or were rendered 100% disabled from injuries received in action, or are currently prisoners of war or missing in action. Additionally, children of Medal of Honor recipients do not need a nomination, but only need to qualify for admission.
Typically, five to ten candidates are nominated for each appointment, which are normally awarded competitively; candidates who do not receive the appointment for which they are competing may still be admitted to the Academy as a qualified alternate. If a candidate is considered qualified but not picked up, they may receive an indirect admission to the United States Military Academy Preparatory School in Fort Monmouth, New Jersey; the following year, these candidates receive direct appointment to the Academy.
In addition, about 20 candidates are admitted from foreign countries per year at the expense of the sending nation.
Since 1959, cadets have been able to "cross-commission," or request a commission in the Air Force, Navy, or Marine Corps, provided they meet that service's eligibility requirements. In previous years, a small number of graduates would do this, typically in a one-for-one "trade" with similarly inclined cadets or midshipmen at the other service academies. Today, however, with the demand for trained Army officers exceptionally high due to the War on Terror, cross-commissioning has been suspended.
Cross-commissioning is governed by USCC Policy Memorandum 03-04 (SUBJECT: United States Corps of Cadets (USCC) Policy on Interservice Commissioning of United States Military Academy (USMA) Cadets), dated 23 July 2004. This policy is in accordance with (IAW) USMA Policy #69-99 Interservice Commissioning of USMA Cadets.
Title 10, United States Code (USC), (Sec 541) and Department of Defense Directive (DODD) 1322.22 (Paragraph 8) provides for a limited number (up to 12.5%) of the graduates of each Federal Service Academy to request commissioning in any one of the Armed Services. The Secretary of each Service regulates this opportunity. Since 1991, the Army has limited the number of USMA cadets commissioned in another Service to not more than 1% of the graduating class, and normally on a one-for-one basis with the other Service Academies. Applicants must be approved by both the Secretary of the applicant’s own Academy and the Secretary of the gaining Service. Applicants will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis and may be denied a transfer based on the needs and best interests of the proposed losing or gaining Service.
Cadets are educated and graded on their performance in academics, physical fitness, and military leadership.
The academic program consists of a core of 31 courses balanced in the arts and sciences. All cadets are required to take at least three engineering courses and three calculus courses. Cadets choose their majors in the fall of their second year. Up until their third year, all cadets take the same classes (with the exception of those who are able to "validate" out of lower level classes and take advanced or accelerated courses). Regardless of major (there are currently 43), all cadets graduate with a Bachelor of Science Degree because of the engineering requirements. The school ranks near the top of all undergraduate programs in the winning of prestigious scholarships and fellowships (e.g., Rhodes Scholarship (#4), Hertz fellowship (#4), Truman Scholarship (#3), Marshall Scholarship (#6), and East-West).
The physical program includes both physical education classes and competitive athletics. Every cadet participates in an intercollegiate, club or intramural (called Company Athletics) level sport each semester. As with all soldiers in the Army, cadets also must pass a physical fitness test twice per year. Additionally, during their third year, cadets must take the "Indoor Obstacle Course Test", or IOCT—which generally is regarded by cadets to be the "worst three minutes of the year."
Cadets learn basic military skills, including leadership, through a military program that begins on their first day at West Point. Most military training takes place during the summer, with new cadets undergoing Cadet Basic Training — or "Beast Barracks" — the first year, followed by Cadet Field Training at nearby Camp Buckner the second year. Cadets spend their third and fourth summers serving in active Army units around the world, attending advanced training courses such as airborne, air assault, or mountain warfare, or training the first- and second-year cadets as members of the leadership cadre. Additionally, cadets are housed in barracks and have leadership positions and responsibilities throughout the academic year.
Every summer, in the year between the Plebe (freshman) year and the Yearling (sophomore) year, the men and women train at Camp Buckner. In this six-week part of Cadet Summer Training at the Military Academy, the cadets are introduced to a variety of weapon systems and training exercises. The yearlings are under the command of the Cows (juniors). The Firsties (seniors), are in officer positions such as Platoon leader and Company commanders. There are eight companies of four platoons each; and they all must take part in both three-week training exercises. The first three weeks are focused more on training, while the last three weeks are more focused on practical exercises. Some field training exercises include first aid and med-evac, patrolling, search and attack, and land navigation. At the end of the six-week session, awards are given out to the best company based on the best performance at each training site. After the awards are given out, there is a “Camp Illumination” dance, and the yearlings are promoted to the rank of Cadet Corporal.
Moral-ethical development occurs throughout the formal programs as well as a host of activities and experiences available at the Academy. These include formal instruction in the important values of the military profession, voluntary religious programs, interaction with staff and faculty role models, and a vigorous guest-speaker program. The foundation of the ethical code at West Point is found in the Academy's motto, "Duty, Honor, Country." Cadets are also required to adhere to the Cadet Honor Code, which states simply, "A cadet will not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do."
In the 2009 "National Liberal Arts College" category in the US News & World Report rankings, West Point ranks #14 overall, and #1 of the public institutions on the list. The 2008 Forbes Magazine report on America's Best Colleges, which puts more weight "on the quality of the education they provide, and how much their students achieve" ranks West Point as the #6 college in the country and #1 among the public institutions. According to the Office of the Dean, "West Point is 4th on the list of total winners for Rhodes Scholarships, 7th for Marshall and 4th on the list of Hertz Fellows.
Colloquially, freshmen are "plebes"; sophomores, "yearlings" or "Yuks"; juniors, "cows"; seniors, "firsties". Most cadets consider plebe year to be the most difficult because of the rules and restrictions developed to help students transition from civilian to cadet. However, the third class year is generally considered to be the hardest academically.
Within the classes, cadets can hold positions of increasing responsibility with a cadet rank:
The Corps of Cadets has the following organization, staff positions not included:
(the number of cadets is approximate and varies from year to year)
The site was selected for the construction of a fort by George Washington, and the fortifications were designed in 1778 by Tadeusz Kościuszko. In addition to various forts surrounding the area, a great chain (see Hudson River Chain) was strung across the Hudson River in order to obstruct British ships attempting to navigate the river. Though never tested, the chain performed its purpose by preventing British movement up and down the river.
General Washington considered West Point one of the most important positions on the continent. The high ground above a narrow "S" curve in the Hudson River enabled the Continental Army to control the vital river traffic. He felt that the British Army could have split the colonies in two if they gained control of this land. It was as commander of the fortifications at West Point that Benedict Arnold committed his infamous treason when he attempted to sell the fort to the British.
George Washington quickly realized the need for a national military academy, but his Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson argued that there was no provision in the Constitution that allowed for the creation of a military academy. However, when Jefferson became president, he called for and signed legislation establishing the United States Military Academy on March 16, 1802; the school opened on July 4 of the same year.
The Superintendent from 1817 to 1833 was Colonel Sylvanus Thayer. He is known as the "father of the Military Academy." He upgraded academic standards, instilled military discipline and emphasized honorable conduct. He also created a teaching method known today as the Thayer Method, which emphasizes self study and daily homework, as well as small class size. This method is still used today. Inspired by the French École Polytechnique, Thayer made civil engineering the foundation of the curriculum. For the first half century, USMA graduates were largely responsible for the construction of the bulk of the nation's initial railway lines, bridges, harbors and roads. (The tradition continues in the hands of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.)
In 1830, a fire occurred in the Academy building, housing (on the first floor); chemical laboratory, engineering room and chapel, and on the second floor the Adjuntant's office, Philosophy department, and Library. Many valuable historical records were lost from the Adjuntant's office. .
In 1857, West Point's candidates for admission were nominated by the members of Congress, one for each congressional district. In addition, the President of the United States could nominate forty from the Republic at large. The requisites for admission were passing an examination, being a bachelor between 16 and 21, and having no physical defect. The cadet pay was about 5 pounds a month, of which board took 2 pounds, and 8s. 6d. was laid aside monthly, to assist in equipment expenses upon leaving. The balance covered dress and other expenses.
In 1857, cadets rose at 5 A.M. in summer, and 5-1/2 in winter. They doubled up bed and mattress, and studied till 7. The cadets then fell in and went to breakfast. At 7-1/2, 24 cadets were on guard-mounting duty every day. At 8, cadets studied. At 1 o'clock, the cadets broke up, fell in, and went to dinner. At the word of command, the cadets rose from dinner and were free till 2. From 2 P.M. to 4, the cadets studied. At 4, they drilled for one hour and a half, after which were free till sunset. At sunset, the cadets paraded in front of the barracks, and delinquents' names were called. The cadets had supper, after which they were free till 8. At 8, there was a call to quarters, and cadets retired to his own room to study till 9-1/2, when the tattoo is beat. At 10, there was a roll of the drum, and every light must be out and every cadet in bed.”
After World War I, Superintendent Douglas MacArthur sought to further diversify the academic curriculum. In recognition of the physical demands of modern warfare, MacArthur pushed for major changes in the physical fitness and athletic programs. "Every cadet an athlete" became an important goal. At the same time, the cadet management of the Honor System, long an unofficial tradition, was formalized with the creation of the Cadet Honor Committee and an official Cadet Honor Code.
Following the creation of the U.S. Air Force as a separate service in 1947 and until the graduation of the first United States Air Force Academy class in 1959, West Point cadets who met the eligibility standards could apply to be commissioned as Air Force officers.
In 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed legislation increasing the strength of the Corps of Cadets from 2,529 to 4,417 (more recently reduced to 4,000 but soon to return to 4,400).
Women were first admitted in 1976 with the class of 1980.
From 1990 to 1994 West Point granted a total of 59 master's degrees as part of the Eisenhower Scholar Program for new tactical officers. This is the only time in history a U.S. service academy has granted graduate level diplomas. This program still exists, but has since been restructured so that the degrees are granted on behalf of another academic institution, and not West Point.
West Point is home to the Sylvanus Thayer Award, named after the Brigadier General Sylvanus Thayer who is considered to be the "father of the Academy." The award is given each year since 1958 by the Academy to an outstanding citizen whose service and accomplishments in the national interest exemplify the Military Academy motto, "Duty, Honor, Country." The award has been awarded to some notable people, to include George H.W. Bush, Colin Powell, Tom Brokaw, Carl Vinson, Douglas MacArthur, and Bob Hope.
No classes graduated in 1810 or 1816, and there were two graduating classes during the war years of 1861, 1917, 1918, and 1943, as well as in 1922. The Classes of June 1943 through 1946 all took a compressed schedule which allowed them to graduate in 3 years.
West Point began the collegiate tradition of the class ring, beginning with the class of 1835, and continuing ever since. The Class of 1879 had cuff links in addition to their class ring. Other classes are known to have cadets who had bracelets made.
Based on the significance both of the Revolutionary War fort ruins and of the military academy itself, the majority of the academy area was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1960.
The first class with female cadets graduated in 1980. In 1989, Kristen Baker became the first female First Captain at West Point. An effigy of her is in the West Point Museum in a display room honoring her. To date [May 2006] three females have been appointed as the First Captain: Grace H. Chung in 2004 and Stephanie Hightower in 2006.
Following the Air Force Academy sexual assault scandal and because of concerns about alleged sexual assault in the U.S. military, the Department of Defense was required to establish a task force to investigate sexual harassment and assault at the U.S. military academies in the law funding the military for the 2004 fiscal year. Though the definitions were broad, the report, issued August 25, 2005, showed that during 2004, 50 percent of women at West Point reported instances of sexual harassment while 111 incidents of sexual assault were reported.
The first female cadet to attain flag (general officer) rank was Rebecca Halstead, class of 1981. She was promoted to Brigadier General in 2005 and is currently serving as the Army's Chief of Ordnance.
The football team plays its home games on Blaik Field at historic Michie Stadium on campus near Lusk Reservoir. Cadets in attendance are required to stand for the duration of the game, unless accompanying guests in the fan section. While that is certainly true for the Army-Navy Game, at all home games, one of the four regiments stages a mini-review before the team takes the field. This "run off" regiment is then dismissed at the close of the review, and may sit in the stands with civilians or stand with their companies in the cadet area.Cadets are required to be present at all home football games (unless excused because of other duties)and are released after the traditional singing of the alma mater after the game is over.
In recent years, Army was a member of Conference USA, but its NCAA Division I-A football program reverted to its former independent status after the 2004 season. It competes with the other academies for the Commander in Chief's Trophy. The 2007 football season marked Army's sixth consecutive loss in the Army-Navy Game.
Army is a member of the Division I Patriot League in most other sports; its men's hockey program competes in Atlantic Hockey. Every year, Army faces Royal Military College of Canada Paladins in the annual West Point Weekend hockey game. This series, conceived in 1923, is the longest running international ice hockey series in the world. Currently Army leads the Series 39-29-6. The 2007 game was not played due to an apparent scheduling conflict. Its sprint football team competes in the Collegiate Sprint Football League. The Academy is one of only 13 universities in the country offering NCAA Division I FBS football, D-I men's and women's basketball, and D-I hockey. Army also boasts Division I Men's and Women's rugby clubs. The Women's club is ranked number one in the nation as of this fall.
In the 2005–06 basketball season, the women's basketball team went 20-11 and won the Patriot League conference tournament; they went to the 2006 NCAA Women's Division I Basketball Tournament as a 15 seed, where they lost to the University of Tennessee, 102-54. It was the first March Madness tournament appearance for any Army basketball team. The head coach of that team, Maggie Dixon, died soon after the season at only 28 years of age.
In 2005, the USMA Rifle team swept the NCAA championships and won the national title.
Army Crew won a gold medal at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association championships in 2005 in the Men's Varsity Four w/o Coxswain.
Bob Knight, the winningest men's basketball coach in NCAA history, began his head coaching career at Army in the late 1960s and early 1970s before moving on to Indiana and Texas Tech. Because of his tenure at Army, Knight is still commonly known in sports circles as "The General". One of Knight's players at Army was Mike Krzyzewski, who later was head coach at Army before moving on to Duke where he won three national championships.
West Point has a number of famous alumni, including three American Presidents (Grant and Eisenhower for the U.S. and Davis for the Confederate States of America) and many famous generals (including Robert E. Lee, John J. Pershing, Omar Bradley and Douglas MacArthur). An unofficial motto of the Academy History Department is "Much of the history we teach was made by people we taught." : For a list of well-known graduates, see: : For a list of well-known alumni who did not graduate, see:
Sylvanus Thayer served as superintendent from 1817 to 1833, and he instituted a number of reforms to make the academy a top-tier academic institution, which it remains today. For this, Thayer is known as the "Father of the U.S. Military Academy." .
In recent times, the position of superintendent has been held by a Lieutenant General.
A Cullum number is the number beside a Cadet's name in the Register of Graduates.
The Cullum number is a reference and identification number assigned to each graduate of the United States Military Academy. It was created by brevet Major General George W. Cullum (USMA Class of 1833) who, in 1850, began the monumental work of chronicling the biographies of every graduate. He assigned Number 1 to the first West Point graduate, Joseph Gardner Swift, and then numbered all successive graduates in sequence. Before his death in 1892, General Cullum completed the first three volumes of a work that eventually comprised 10 volumes, entitled General Cullum’s Biographical Register of the Officers and Graduates of the United States Military Academy, and covering USMA classes from 1802 through 1850. The current Register of Graduates is a direct descendant of General Cullum's seminal work.
From 1802 through the Class of 1977, graduates were listed by General Order of Merit. Thus, the Register provided a quick reference for those looking for class rank. Beginning with the Class of 1978, graduates were listed alphabetically, and then by date of graduation.
Currently, seven graduates have an "A" suffix after their Cullum Number. For various reasons these graduates were omitted from the original class roster, and a suffix letter was added to avoid renumbering the entire class and subsequent classes.
The WPAOG was founded in 1869 to reunite Academy graduates who found themselves on opposing sides during the American Civil War. Today, it continues to strengthen the bonds of the "Long Gray Line" through assistance to graduates, cadets, parents, West Point Societies, and USMA Classes worldwide.
Located in Herbert Hall Alumni Center, the Association is the focal point for returning alumni. As a non-profit, tax-exempt corporation, its philanthropic pursuits maintain a margin of excellence for Cadets attending the Academy.
Our mission, as stated in the original Mission Statement of June 17, 1870 (the first AOG Reunion).
"The objects of this Association shall be to cherish the memories of our Alma Mater, and to promote the social intercourse and fraternal fellowship of its graduates."
The West Point Museum is directly adjacent to the visitor's center, in the renovated Olmsted Hall at Pershing Center on the grounds of the former Ladycliff College. The grounds were purchased by West Point after the college closed in the early 1980s. The building is named after the museum's primary donor, Major General George H. Olmsted, Class of 1922.
The West Point Museum is truly the National Museum of the United States Army, having been founded by funds provided by Congress prior to the Mexican War. The museum's collections represent all major categories of military study from arms, cannon and artillery to uniforms, military art and objects reflecting West Point's history. Originally opened to the public in 1854, the West Point Museum is the oldest and largest military museum in the country. It contains some of America's most interesting national military treasures and one of the finest collections of military artifacts available for public viewing. Every American armed conflict is represented in the 135 exhibits. An additional gallery portrays the history of the U.S. Army during peacetime and its role as a formative nation builder within the United States. West Point's history during and after the Revolutionary War, as well as the institutional history of the Military Academy, are traced in the West Point gallery devoted to the school, the cadet and the officer. The museum also provides exhibits in Thayer Hall, USMA to support the Department of History cadet curriculum with exhibit themes which range from ancient to modern civilizations.
The senior staff of the West Point Museum includes a director, three curators of collections, an exhibition designer, conservator, registrar and collections preparator. The Museum is self-guided and it is recommended to allow at least 1—2 hours to view the extended and magnificent exhibits. During the Summer months, the Museum operates historic Fort Putnam.